Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can a halogen light start a fire? Yes.

A few months back, I finished our upstairs bathroom remodel (see all bathroom remodel posts) by added a new light soffit with halogen lights above the sink. You can read all the custom light soffit posts as well.

Those tiny halogen lights sure do put out enough heat, but are they capable of starting a fire? Simply put, yes. Please read on as I explain how.

I built the housing of that soffit out of pine wood and plywood, but the threat of fire in my particular situation did not come from the housing of the light soffit itself. It came from the bathroom door that was swung open far enough to be directly under the light. It only took a few minutes for the top of the door to get hot enough for my wife to ask me if I smelled something burning. Before I go on, let me give you some background information...

My wife asks me about once a month if I smell something burning, and typically it’s a false alarm. So, please forgive me if I initially wrote this off as the little boy crying wolf. However, after running trudging up the stairs to explore the latest purported fire, I realized there was indeed the smell of smoke. Initially, I thought it was my wife’s hair dryer overheating. Then I noticed the door directly under one of the four halogen lights.

Since the clearance between the top of the door and the halogen lamp is only two or three inches, the heat from the halogen bulb was significant enough to cause the wood on the top of the door to smolder. This had never been an issue before, because a small trash can that typically sits on the floor directly behind the door usually stops the door from swinging that far open. On this particular day, however, the trash can had slide under the adjacent sink, allowing the door to swing as far as the perpendicular wall.

The photos above show the halogen light assembly with smoke stains, the smolder mark on the outside of the door, and the smoke mark and cracked paint on the inside of the door.

In hindsight, I guess it wasn’t a good idea to rely on the trash can to stop the door from swinging too far, but I never imagined this type of halogen light fire scenario.

To keep this from happening again in the future, I’ve added the trusty door stop that mounts neatly to the door’s hinge pin from Ace Hardware. Who knew a three dollar door door stop hinge pin could also be a fire preventer. Live and learn.

And just to clear the air (no pun intended), I’ll never take my wife’s concern over the possible smell of smoke lightly ever again. I promise.


  1. Good to know, we have these lights in our kitchen....

  2. Hi Jen,

    Hopefully, no one else has a situation similar to mine, where something flamable like a door could come in such close proximity to the hot halogen light. Definitely something to be mindful of, though.


  3. Glad you caught it in time and that you were home!

    We have one of those lights above our sink...

  4. It's nice that your wife has a permanent record of "being right."

    Glad it wasn't more serious!

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  7. My wife accidentally sat on our halogen bulb lamp and didnt notice it burning her flesh for several hours.